Once again, the updated news comes to us from Jay Rosen’s PressThink, which has covered in great detail the blogging culture’s unwitting incursion into a major North Carolina newspaper…even as the mainstream media has largely ignored this story. The irony is: if all goes well (and chances are it will) the mainstream media will likely be following — and cloning — the Greensboro model as newspapers increasingly move through the 21st Century.
And why shouldn’t newspapers adapt? If you look at the history of the 20th Century, a lof of them would be gone if they hadn’t. The 20th Century saw the death of many evening newspapers due to television; some of them just withered and died but others were incorporated into morning editions in a kind of journalistic mind-meld. ("We’re going to give you the BEST of these papers!" it was usually announced when a morning paper was killed and merged and the result was….ONE newspaper..)
Newspapers were staid and boring…until USA Today came along, eliciting arrogant smirks from many editors who said it was gaudy, shallow and would never last with its small "new holes" for many stories, graphics, and bright colors.
But USA Today was aiming for younger viewers and confronting the late 20th Century’s television culture on its own terms.
What happened? Other newspapers cloned a bit of USA Today (the Los Angeles Times and New York Times even ADDED COLOR). (FOOTNOTE: We see the same phenomena in broadcasting where tabloid TV shows and talk radio have influenced the packaging of news shows…although the recent booting of Tucker Carlson from CNN shows some resistance to this trend).
We wrote extensively about what’s going on in Greensboro, N.C. in this post which detailed how local newspaper the Greensboro News-Record was seriously considering incorporating blogging into its web news operations in a big, high profile way. Read that post to get totally caught up to date.
Bottom line: the newpaper has gone beyond the germ-of-an-idea stage — and is now looking into SPECIFIC ways of incorporating blogging as way of doing news business.
In a nutshell, John Robinson, editor of the Greensboro News-Record, writes a blog and he had issued a call to create a culture of blogging in the online edition of his newspaper…and do it in a big way. Not a baby step, but a major shift in thinking and news delivery orientation.
Now, Rosen reports the latest development which shows the Greensboro paper is interested in more than just talking about the future; it wants to move into it:
A much awaited document was released today. It’s Lex Alexander’s report to News & Record editor John Robinson on citizen journalism directions for the Greensboro newspaper and its revamped site. (Greensboro background is here and here.)
The report is a change document. It has a short argument attached to a series of practical suggestions, some more developed than others. A good number of Alexander’s recommendations are modest and easy to do; others require practical invention. A few are far-reaching or call for such changes in policy as to be revolutionary for the dailynewspaper.com world.
The "nut graph" of Alexander’s report is this where he talks about the changes the newspaper needs to make:
It means understanding the culture of the Internet, and of blogging in particular, and understanding how we can work on and with the Internet (i.e., with users of that medium) to expand the quantity and quality of the local news, information and dialogue we provide.
Does this sound too grandiose, and not detailed enough? Well, make sure you read Rosen’s piece because he gives you a slew of SPECIFIC THINGS under consideration. Such as:
–More blog style journalism and an emphasis on such things as linking and a free archive.
–Extensive use of bloggers for local journalism (read Rosen’s post for more specifics). Developing a network of neighborhood bloggers. Allowing comments and requiring writers to read and if necessary answer them. Do thing such as obits, blog style with a "guest book." Compensation of bloggers.
And this HUGE idea — as anyone who has worked on a newspaper will attest:
Open up planning and editorial meetings to local bloggers who may blog about them.
There’s much more — but you need to read Rosen’s (as usual) excellent piece yourself to find out. Here’s an excerpt where Rosen underlines the significance of what’s happening in Greensboro:
Alexander’s report is very clear about what it means to abandon the "re-purposing" legacy. "It means understanding the culture of the Internet." If you start there, then of course you will realize the site needs to "link out" a lot; it becomes part of journalism ethics to do so. A smart newsroom will quickly absorb the ethic of linking, once the cultural adjustment is made.
It’s taken a long time for daily newspaper people to get there, but it seems to me that Greensboro has arrived at the crossover. It is ready to become an Internet newspaper with a print edition, rather than an old-style newspaper re-purposing its content online….
In Greensboro we find a newspaper awakening to the culture of the Web.
Indeed. And once it does — and if it proves successful, and it should — other news media outlets that have so far largely ignored this major journalism story will most-assuredly follow suit.
UPDATE: (These are comments we found interesting when exploring the links on Rosen’s excellent piece):
—Jay Robinson on his own blog:
Lex met with several of us here last night, and we talked through the points. Now, we’re in the process of determining what our technology will allow, what our staffing will allow, and what we want to do first. We will be ambitious. After listening to the locals, reading Jay Rosen’s Top 10 Ideas and "We the Media" by Dan Gillmor, we must.
As we build this town square of participatory journalism, we intend to be open about it, letting you know where we are in the process often, asking for your suggestions and thoughts, and involving you as best we can.
—Ed Cone:"The paper is feeding off of, and feeding into, a broader movement that includes personal publishing and politics. Suddenly, blogging is taking off among our elected officials — our mayor pro tem has a blog, another City Council member has made a public promise to start soon, and another is actively testing the medium in private. Our Register of Deeds is blogging. It’s really kind of cool."
—Gatecity (N.C. blog):
Truth be told, I don’t think I get "it" in terms of blogging. I simply enjoy it both as a creative outlet, a source of news (or more correctly, opinion), and as a member of the Blog Community, which I guess I am.
I differ from the demographic that I like reading the paper, and read at least 2 everyday. Looking at a computer screen is just not the same. I can see the day however, when print media as we know it now seeks to exist. Perhaps some company in the (near) future will start putting their paper completely online and it just prints out each morning for paying customers automatically. That way the cost of the paper is on the reader. Or the subscriber sets up a set of preferences and it just prints out what he likes to read. Do you think that could ever happen JR?
I also prefer my "news" to come from a true media outlet. While some blogs are newsworthy and have merit (Cone, Hoggard, etc.) others come across as just rumours and opinion. I feel that there has to be some sort of central control or governor in the form of an editor. That’s just me, however.